Best PC strategy games 2023 - our top picks

Key art for Football Manager 2024
(Image credit: Sports Interactive)

The best PC strategy games challenge and immerse, offering puzzles that captivate audiences thanks to deep and rewarding systems. Whether you're building a settlement in a frozen waste or directing an army in battle, every choice matters. 

No matter if you prefer real-time strategy or turn-based challenges, there are plenty of titles on our list below to whet your appetite. From fantasy epics to sweeping space operas, you'll find plenty of imaginative offerings here. We've also included plenty of more grounded games, too. 

At TechRadar Gaming we eat strategy games for breakfast. We've played the good, the bad, and the mid to sift out the very best PC strategy games. Many of the games on our list amount to some of the best PC games ever made, right at home on mouse and keyboard. Read on to discover brain-teasing gauntlets of strategy and skill that give even the best RPGs and best story games a run for their money with the tension and drama of their finely-tuned systems and mechanics. 

Best PC strategy games 2023

Screenshot from Football Manager 2024

(Image credit: Sports Interactive)

Football Manager 2024

Sports as a grand strategy game
Why we love it

Football Manager 2024 is probably more fun than running an actual football club. Whether it's tweaking tactics, signing star players or talking to the press, Football Manager 2024 lets you do whatever management you want, and delegate the bits you don't. 

Football Manager 2024 is a strategy game but doesn't initially look like one. Beneath the promise of guiding a football team to glory, there's a wealth of spreadsheets and crunchy options to get stuck into to turn your team of has-beens into world beaters. 

The game can get as deep as you want with AI staff members able to step in and help with tactics or training, and even able to recommend signings. But the fun of it is in being able to drop yourself anywhere in football and just taking a swing at running a club for yourself, whether it's Coventry City or Barcelona. 

Not into football? That's fine, the intricate depth of systems and the way they lock together to create a believable facsimile of the football world creates the same compulsion to pull, prod and manipulate as strategy greats like Crusader Kings 3 and Victoria 3

civilization 6 key art

(Image credit: 2K Games)

Sid Meier's Civilization 6

History at your fingertips
Why we love it

Civilization 6 allows you to tinker with the past, letting you stick key elements from human history into a blender and encouraging you to happily imbibe what comes out. Combine that with robust, moreish turn-based mechanics, and you've got something special.

The Civilization series ranks highly amongst the best PC strategy games, and Civilization 6 is no exception. Like its predecessors, Civ 6 grounds the stakes and spectacle of its grand strategy in our own reality, ensuring that any who play it instantly have access to the frame of reference. 

Over several dozen hours, you'll guide and mold your fledgling civilization, bending the course of history. Why not have the U.S. build the Eiffel Tower or the Incas develop steam power years before the British? With Civilization 6, history is yours to shape. The title is especially strong in multiplayer, too, and well worth playing alongside friends. 

Industrial towers clad in ominous red banners

(Image credit: 11 Bit Studios)


The city must survive
Why we love it

Bleak and atmospheric, Frostpunk's main antagonists are the hostile, frozen environment and human frailty. This indie strategy offering will push you to your limit, asking exactly how far you might go to survive. 

Perhaps the best PC strategy game when it comes to a single-player experience, Frostpunk is a brutal title that'll force you to make dozens of difficult choices. The premise is novel, too. Taking place in an alternate version of Victorian England, the world has been gripped by a sudden winter, freezing the land to the core. You are the captain of one of the last holdouts. Gather coal, build infrastructure, and pass laws as you attempt to weather the storm.  

You will need to decide who to triage and who to save. Do you tell your people the truth, or is a brutal surveillance state the only way to ensure survival? Not for the faint of heart, Frostpunk will push your strategy skills to the limit as you attempt to save humanity from the Great Freeze. 

crusader kings 3 gameplay

(Image credit: Paradox Interactive)

Crusader Kings 3

Crowning achivement
Why we love it

Crusader Kings 3 isn't just a great strategy game, it's also a powerful tool for emergent storytelling, letting you guide your chosen dynasty through chaotic and dramatic life events. Many games claim that every run is different - Crusader Kings 3 delivers on that promise. 

Crusader Kings 3 sits comfortably among the best PC strategy games of recent years. In this century-spanning title, you take on the role of a feudal noble during the medieval period. Throughout your character's life, you'll make countless decisions, ranging from the personal to the political. You'll wind up embroiled in a complex web of politics and social intrigue, underpinned by marriages, vendettas, and raw ambition.  

What's more, every game of Crusader Kings 3 is different, a promise delivered by the game's mind-bogglingly broad library of events and happenings, enhanced by constant updates. Crusader Kings 3 isn't just a test of your strategic nous, but also tells an emergent story. Players come away from campaigns full of anecdotes and amusement. With the game available on Xbox Game Pass, there's never been a better time to join them.

Destroyed gated villa

(Image credit: THQ Nordic)

Jagged Alliance 3

An island adventure
Why we love it

The small-unit tactics of Jagged Alliance 3 is a far cry from the superpowered S.W.A.T antics of XCOM2, and manages to bake in both the elation of pulling a well-timed plan and the brown-trouser fear of everything turning against you with a single well-placed enemy grenade

Turn-based strategy Jagged Alliance 3 has a few, er, jagged edges but it also offers some of the best urban combat this side of its 1999 predecessor Jagged Alliance 2 and venerable 2003 strategy Silent Storm.

Bring in 20 years of extra tech and advances in game design theory and Jagged Alliance 3's most compelling aspect is that it can fulfill the fantasy of fighting a guerrilla war and being responsible for every single single unit.

It's also a game where the scope expands as you get more successful, meaning the challenge is constant. At first you'll be struggling to keep six mercenaries happy, healthy and supplied with ammunition. Later, you'll be running several squads of armed assailants while also trying to keep track of several diamond mines and the legions of NPCs protecting your hard-won territory. This is probably the definitive insurgency simulator, and worth a play if that feels like it might interest you. 

starcraft 2 zerg rush

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

StarCraft 2

Terran it up
Why we love it

Starcraft 2 reinvented esports when it was released back in 2010. More than that, however, it offered immersive, cinematic story campaigns that immerse you in the game world, providing an unforgettable sci-fi epic.

If Age of Empires 2 started the modern RTS, then it's Starcraft 2 that refined the model to near perfection. This esports giant is perhaps the most renowned title on this best PC strategy games list, and with good reason. The 1v1 skirmish mode alone offers a finely tuned PvP experience that's set the gold standard for RTS titles for years. 

On top of all this, Starcraft 2 offers a three-part campaign, full of gorgeous cinematics and more than the occasional difficult choice for players to make. In addition to customizing your units between missions, the immersive campaigns have you take on the role of a faction's leader, deciding how to handle the dangerous situations the galaxy throws at you. Whether you play as the plucky Terrans, the enigmatic Protoss, or the xenomorphic Zerg, there are plenty of memorable moments across Starcraft 2's varied missions.

stellaris customization screen

(Image credit: Paradox Interactive)


The final frontier
Why we love it

Stellaris makes the galaxy into your personal playground. Not only can you customize your faction in almost any way you can think of, but the game itself allows you to take that faction in almost any direction as you evolve from a fledgling civilization to a mighty stellar empire.

Stellaris is to galactic conquest what Crusader Kings 3 is to medieval kingdoms. Both are developed by Paradox Interactive, but Stellaris takes a rather broader approach, allowing you to build an interstellar civilization of almost any kind. From starship construction to planetary management, there's a huge amount for you to do in this strategy epic. This breadth comfortably earns Stellaris a place on this best PC strategy games list.

Want to play as a federation of human do-gooders who want to seek out new life and new civilizations? You can. Want to be an alien hive mind hell-bent on devouring all organic life in the galaxy? You can do that, too. Thanks to the wealth of customization options and expansions available, the possibilities are nearly endless.

A Bloodthirster of Khorne marshals its forces

(Image credit: Creative Assembly)

Total War: Warhammer 3

Fighting fantasy
Why we love it

Total War: Warhammer 3's Mortal Empires mode offers a dizzyingly vast campaign that covers an entire fantasy world.  The game's strategy layer gives you the sense of running a fantasy empire, a fantasy that comes to life thanks to the scale of Mortal Empires.

Total War: Warhammer 3 is one of the best PC strategy games when it comes to fantasy. Armies of Elves, demons, ogres, and more clash across the Old World of Games Workshop's classic fantasy setting in stunning real-time battles. As you'd hope, each faction behaves very distinctly; the noble knights of Bretonnia's majestic cavalry couldn't be more different from the conniving infiltrators of the rat-like Skaven. 

What's more, the game's campaigns have you manage an entire faction, building armies, upgrading cities, and spending resources to best defeat your enemies. Though the basic campaign makes for an engaging story, the recently added Immortal Empires mode allows you to battle across locations from all three games in the series, using any of the trilogy's factions. It's extremely ambitious and needs to be seen to be believed.


(Image credit: 2K Games)


Why we love it

XCOM 2 makes you care about your soldiers by giving them just enough of a personality to make their deaths hurt. As they level up, they'll take on specialized roles and gain their own storied histories as part of the resistance. XCOM 2 isn't just your story, it's theirs.

XCOM 2 is the sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown and offers a major twist: we lost. Aliens have invaded and humanity has been conquered - a novel premise from one of the best PC strategy games out there. In XCOM 2, you're not leading Earth's defenses, you're leading its last resistance movement. Take the fight to the alien overlords and discover what they're planning before it's too late.

Within this high-stakes title, you'll take command of the Avenger, an alien supply craft that has been transformed into XCOM's mobile headquarters. From here, you'll be able to enjoy an open-ended experience that lets you take control of your strike team. Guide them, and attempt to preserve them through perilous missions as you fight to unravel the alien tyranny.

Best PC strategy games: FAQs

Frostpunk screenshot depicting a frozen wasteland

(Image credit: Steam)

Which grand strategy game should I play?

Stellaris is certainly one of the best PC strategy games around, allowing you to fully customize your faction and wider game experience. It's a true sci-fi epic that offers mountains of replay value. However, when it comes to determining which PC strategy game to play, it's important to account for taste and personal preference. 

Despite its strengths, a die-hard fantasy fan may well get more from Total War: Warhammer 3 than the likes of XCOM 2 or Stellaris. In the same way, those who want an experience more grounded in the real world are unlikely to find a better title to suit their tastes than Civilization 6.

Is Civ 6 a grand strategy?

Absolutely! Civilization 6 has you manage a distinct faction and chart its course through history. You'll manage research, infrastructure, diplomacy, and military investment as you move from the Stone Age to the modern era. 

With its wide range of factions and deep system of interacting mechanics Civilization 6 provides an accessible yet rewarding grand strategy experience. Decisions you make early on will have huge ramifications throughout your campaigns. Additionally, at higher difficulties, Civilization 6 offers a serious challenge that will satisfy even the most hardcore strategy fans.

How we made our best PC strategy games list

Our best PC strategy games list aims to show off the range of different sub-genres available across the strategy landscape. While ensuring that our list consists of only the most finely polished experiences, we also wanted to ensure that everything from sci-fi to fantasy was represented. 

Here at TRG, we've spent thousands of collective hours playing strategy games - an expertise that we're keen to pass on to the consumer. We know what makes a great strategy game, and every title on this list more than fits the bill. 

If you're looking for other games to jump into, we've got a list of the best MMOs, alongside the best RPGs. But, if you're specifically on the search for a solo adventure, we've compiled all the best single-player games too.